Boys Cross Country Team Excels Despite Challenges from COVID-19

 Despite many restrictions brought on by the pandemic, the boys cross country team has been grateful for the opportunity to work toward being successful in meets and for being able to spend time joking around with each other. Comparable to other sports, COVID-19 has affected the team in that they are limited to running dual meets against schools within their conference and all of the large races they are usually invited to around the state have been canceled. 

However, the challenges that COVID-19 brings doesn’t mean giving up. The boys have still put in countless miles to be accomplished runners, particularly senior Stephen Barretto. Barretto took the lockdown and made the most of the time it provided by running longer and faster workouts. During the summer, he turned his focus to endurance training which consisted of increasing his weekly mileage to about 60-70 miles on the high end. One of Barretto’s personal goals for this season is to win both conference and regionals. 

  Like many others, Barretto wishes there was more normalcy for his last high school season. 

 “I am very disappointed that my senior season coincided with COVID-19 regulations,” Barretto said. 

 Unfortunately, Barretto’s favorite race, the Peoria Invitational, was canceled this year. The race in Peoria is where the boys usually have an overnight trip and it is the fastest course in Illinois. 

While for some, their favorite races were canceled, others, like junior Carter Wachtel, found different meets to enjoy. 

 “My favorite meet has been the 2 mile [race] on the track at Wheeling,” Wachtel said. “It was under the lights and everyone ran great races”. 

There are over forty guys on the team, so there is plenty of joking around, but in the end, the boys are always cheering each other on because they know how hard many of the guys work and how many miles they have put in. There are dozens of newcomers each year whether it be freshmen or upperclassmen looking to do something fun with their friends. The goal is always to help them learn about running and showcase the hard work the team puts in. 

“The guys make me laugh, they pick me up and I hope I do the same for them,” head coach Frank Schweda said. 

It’s difficult to be on Zoom calls all day and not see any students in person, so it’s enjoyable for the guys to see everyone and have something to work towards. 

The team always has the goal of finishing in the top six in the conference and to continually improve throughout the season. However, this year especially, it has been an important goal to keep everyone safe and to just enjoy being on a team. 

This year many of the guys are looking forward to the Shazam Invite which is an informal State finals race in Peoria as a result of State being canceled. Some of the best competition in the state will be there and the race will be on a fast course. Taking note of how hard the guys have trained, they should most definitely have a successful finish to the season.